Art Pleased

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Shell pleased as Raiders leave Napa

By Steve Corkran


NAPA - The Raiders arrived in Napa on July 24 with plenty of things new coach Art Shell wanted to accomplish in training camp. They had a lot of ground to cover, given Shell was the last NFL coach hired during the offseason.

They arrive in Alameda today for the next phase of their buildup toward the regular-season opener Sept. 11, against the San Diego Chargers, with everything going according to plan.

The lone setback came with the news Wednesday that the injury starting center Jake Grove sustained to his left shoulder during practice Tuesday turned out to be worse than initially thought, Shell said.

An MRI revealed enough damage to warrant surgery, Shell said. However, Grove said he is going to have a second MRI before he goes ahead with a surgery.

Sobering news, sure. Yet, that wasn't enough to dampen the enthusiasm of Shell and the players as they left behind the place they called home the past month or so.

"I am pretty satisfied with what we got accomplished ... ," Shell said. "I really like this team. I just said it to them again. I like this football team. I said it to them when we first started in the offseason, at the minicamps. At the minicamps I realized that we have some good football players on this team."

Thirty days. Three exhibition games. No roster changes. That provided Shell and his coaching staff the time and continuity they sought in evaluating the 90 players on their roster. They now have a better feel for the 53 players who will make up this year's team.

What follows is a look at what was gleaned from the past month of practices and games in terms of the five biggest issues confronting the Raiders entering training camp:

1. Determining if Aaron Brooks is the heir apparent to deposed starting quarterback Kerry Collins. Shell still hasn't made official his starting quarterback for the regular season. However, Brooks has started all three exhibition games and taken the majority of the reps with the first-team offense in practice.

Brooks, Andrew Walter and Marques Tuiasosopo struggled in Oakland's first two exhibition games. All three played well in the third game. Therefore, it figures to be Brooks' overwhelming edge in experience that leads Shell to tap Brooks as the starter.

That decision might not be rendered until the week leading up to the Chargers game. Not that it matters. The Raiders signed Brooks because of his experience, strong arm and mobility. Neither Walter nor Tuiasosopo has a comparable makeup.

2. Getting a retooled offensive line to perform as a cohesive unit. No one expected this to be a smooth process. It hasn't been. To that end, co-offensive line coach Jackie Slater said, it's too early to get worked up over inconsistent play overall, or Robert Gallery's transition from right tackle to left tackle, in particular.

"The players, as well as myself, we're all growing ... ," Slater said. "But there's no doubt we all have to get better. The thing that I'm encouraged by is, the type of young men that I'm coaching over here are guys that are working, that realize that we all need to get better and consistently turn up the effort."

3. Rounding out the linebacking corps. This was a high priority for the Raiders. They were so thin at linebacker last season that defensive coordinator Rob Ryan had to abandon a scheme that featured three linebackers in favor of one that used only two and an extra defensive back.

Something had to change. The Raiders made certain of that by drafting Thomas Howard and Darnell Bing, and signing free-agent veteran Robert Thomas. They also benefited from the return of veteran Sam Williams from a season-ending knee injury.

There is plenty of depth now. So much so that starting middle linebacker Danny Clark has been replaced by second-year player Kirk Morrison. Howard and Williams flank Morrison.

"There's a lot of versatility with these guys," Ryan said.

4. Turning special teams into a strength. There's a teamwide belief that the Raiders lost several games last year because of shoddy special teams play. Special teams coach Joe Avezzano paid for it with his job.

First-year coach Ted Daisher has taken most of the same players and transformed them into a strength once again. So far, that is.

Sebastian Janikowski has converted all seven of his field goal attempts. Punter Shane Lechler has kicked as well as at any point in his career. Chris Carr has worked hard to be as consistent on punt returns as he was on kick returns last season.

"We're trying to make our special teams better, because they weren't very good last year," Shell said.

5. Finding more ways to get wide receiver Randy Moss involved. Moss caught only two passes in Oakland's first three games. However, Shell and offensive coordinator Tom Walsh have made it clear that Moss will be a focal point of an offense that figures to throw more deep passes than it did last season.

"You can see he's still there to play this game at a high level," Shell said. "We've just got to keep him healthy coming out of training camp and get through the season, and he'll make his mark."

Notes: Fifth-year player Corey Hulsey replaced Grove with the first-team offense in practice Wednesday. He said he has played or worked out at center throughout his collegiate and pro career. However, he has not started a regular-season game at center in his NFL career. ... Defensive tackle Michael Quarshie sustained an injury to the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee Tuesday and is out for a while, Shell said. He left the practice field on crutches.
 
Camp Shell closes rather boring run

By Bill Soliday


NAPA — In many ways, Oakland Raiders Training Camp 2006 was as noteworthy for what didn't happen than what did.
Despite the conspicuous arrival of Art Shell as head coach, there were some things that were distinctly missing from the usual monthlong dramatics in shoulder pads.

That is to say there weren't many dramatics, just a lot of hard work, devotion to duty, allegiance to and awe in the presence of Shell, and ... well, not a lot more.

Frankly, the biggest thing that happened was the cancellation of a practice the day Shell sent the boys off the field for what he later termed "some time off."

What was missing at Camp 2006? Some examples:

-Al Davis. He attended only one practice — and it was a rather mundane one without pads.

-No bizarre haircuts were seen adorning the scalps of the rookies, which led many to believe they never took place. That would have been a first in recent memory. Actually there were scalpings with only mild approval from Shell, who orderedthe shorn athletes be cleaned up and presentable a day later. So nobody noticed what had happened the night before the team left for Canton, Ohio. More obvious: no pain-in-the-neck employees/players were tied to the goal posts, squirted with analgesic balm and left to sizzle in the sun.

-Cuts. As of today, no one had heard from The Turk, although more than a few fans would vote to have a certain wide receiver dropped off in the nearest sewage canal. There were no major signings, either.

-Injuries. There were the usual assortment of bumps and bruises, but none of the principles on the roster had to be hauled off the field dragging ligaments behind them — at least until the final day of camp when center Jake Grove's shoulder injury ended a monthlong streak.

-Fights. Running back Justin Fargas threw his helmet at linebacker Danny Clark one day. Ho hum. That was about it.

-Offense. Until last Sunday night's game against the 49ers, the defense dominated to such a degree that it appeared the offense was trying to prove a point ... that pitching always dominates hitting at first.

-Celebrities. The usual parade of "Raiders legends" dropped by to pledge their allegiance to Shell, but the biggest movie star on the premises was former Raiders coach John Madden, who arrived several days before charming the nation during his Hall of Fame induction. Where was Carl Weathers? And you'd think Paris Hilton, having adopted one football player, might show up to say hi to 90 Oakland Raiders.

-Jerry Porter. Enough said.

However, there were highs and lows as there always are. Here is the 2006 version of camp awards.

MOST VALUABLE (OFFENSE): Tough call because nobody really stood out like a flashing neon sign. By default, let's give it up for Slim Janikowski.

MOST VALUABLE (DEFENSE): Another tough call because (hello?) what was going on defense was a team effort. And it was a good one. But here's one man's vote for cornerback Fabian Washington, who was buried so deep on the depth chart a year ago today you needed a treasure map to find him. He now appears to be the true first round success story the Raiders thought he would be.


CAMP HIGHLIGHT: The trip to Canton and the Hall of Fame to watch Madden be inducted and to play the Eagles the next day.

BEST ROOKIE: While safety Michael Huff was getting his feet wet, linebacker Thomas Howard was impressing one and all with what teammates often referred to as "freakish" ability.

BIRTH OF LEADERS: They've both experienced criticism in their day, but the Raiders are now their gig, and they seem willing and able to lead through hard work and hustle: defensive tackle Warren Sapp and wide receiver Randy Moss.

BIGGEST SURPRISE: If John Madden was the biggest celebrity, John Madsen was the biggest non-celebrity to make a splash. The 6-foot-5 rookie at 220 pounds was shifted from wide receiver to tight end and, with few exceptions, made all the plays. It may get him a spot on the roster or it may not, but there's something about him that reminds us of Ed McCaffrey. The Giants and the 49ers couldn't seem to find a spot for Easy Ed. It's a mistake they paid for in a big way. The difference: Madsen doesn't seem to be a flopper.

OLD SCHOOL IS COOL: For Shell's benefit, every so often somebody would crank out some 1970s R&B over the loudspeakers in the weight training area. "Recognize that? It's the Spinners," Shell said one day to an elder writer. Did. Not. Recognize. But, hey, whatever floats your boat, Art. As for the modern sounds in rhythm and blues (hip-hop genre), Shell had but one comment. "Don't understand."

WORD MOST FREQUENTLY HEARD: No, not hyphie ... the operative word in this camp was "team." A very good sign. If it's still 'The Word' in November, all the better.

SWEETHEART OF SIGMA CHI:
Is there anything that would bring down the seemingly perpetually upbeat wide receiver Johnnie Morant?

MR. COOL: If you ever met him, you'd know you'd just kill to be as cool as fullback Zack Crockett.

BIRDS OF A FEATHER: The comedy team of Rod Smart and Jarrod Cooper. "He Hate Me" meets "They All Love Me." A radio program just waiting to happen. It could be called: "Special Teams — Faceless Geeks No Longer."

BEST GUY YOU NEVER HEARD OF: Safety Alvin Nnabuife was all over the field making plays early in camp, forcing people to learn how to pronounce his name. Teammates chose the easy way out. They just call him "Boof."

WHO'S HE?: Lots of people wondered why free-agent rookie quarterback Kent Smith got so much playing time in camp, then never got into a game. He throws a nice ball, has a nice pocket presence and ... maybe we'd just better shut up about him.

INAPPROPRIATE AWARD: Wide receiver Jerry Porter, who decided to let everybody know how he felt about the world and everything in it by insisting on wearing a T-shirt featuring a certain protruding finger on it. I'm sure fans and their children who were in attendance seeking autographs appreciated the sentiment.
 
Raiders break camp
Team moves to Alameda to get ready for Lions


By MARTY JAMES
Thursday, August 24, 2006 1:16 AM PDT

The Oakland Raiders stayed busy and active on their final day of training camp Wednesday.

A 7 a.m. wake-up call at the Napa Valley Marriott was followed by breakfast, meetings, a walk-through, lunch, and an afternoon practice.

Finally, at about 5 p.m., the Silver and Black broke camp at their Napa facility that has been the team’s home since July 24.

“Normally, on a day like this, it’s like pulling teeth,” head coach Art Shell said on the Redwood Middle School practice field. “But they worked well today. I think we’ve accomplished a lot up here in Napa. They were focused and they practiced good.”


The Raiders — minus Jake Grove, their starting center who will have surgery on his injured left shoulder — worked on offense, defense and special teams to conclude their 11th summer in Napa. Players, coaches and staff listened to Shell at the end of practice before checking out of their hotel rooms, loading their personal belongings and returning to the Bay Area.

Their work and preparation doesn’t stop, however, as they return to team headquarters in Alameda today to continue getting ready for Friday night’s NFL preseason game against Detroit at McAfee Coliseum in Oakland and the regular season, which begins in September.

“I haven’t had a whole lot of complaints about anything, so they’re ready to get home now and get back into their normal surroundings,” said Shell. “We’ve still got a lot to do.

“I knew way back that this team was willing to work. They had said it to me. All they wanted was direction. They worked their tails off here. But again, this is just the beginning of everything that has to happen. We have to continue to work, because we’ve got a long ways to go. The season is approaching us real fast. There’s going to be bumps in the road, but you’ve got to be able to negotiate them and you’ve got to be able to recover.”

In what is considered a rarity in today’s game, the Raiders didn’t make a single roster move in camp. The 90 players who started camp stayed in camp, with the exception of wide receiver Ronald Curry and offensive tackle Robert Gallery being pulled off PUP (physically unable to perform list).

“I really like this team,” said Shell, whose team wraps up the exhibition season at Seattle Aug. 31. “After a couple of mini camps I realized that we have some good football players on this team. The thing that got me was the work ethic that they had throughout the offseason, and then they carried it on right here. They acted like professionals.”

Shell has instilled a no-nonsense, old-school approach when it comes to discipline, and the players have shown respect for his leadership.

“You can’t go into any endeavor without getting the trust of the people around you,” the coach said. “I don’t care where you work. If those people in that organization don’t trust each other, then you’re going to have a lot of friction and you’re going to be splintered. You must create that trust, whereever you are.

“If you’ve got that trust, then they believe that we have a plan and that we have a plan that can work, if they work at it. There has to be a mutual trust and respect among us, and I think that’s being done.”

Shell named Corey Hulsey, a fifth-year player who has played in 34 league games with 12 starts, to replace Grove, a second-round pick in 2004. Hulsey worked at center Wednesday and got the nod ahead of veteran Adam Treu.

Grove practiced Tuesday and later had an MRI, the results of which aren’t known. Shell isn’t sure how long Grove will be out.

“It through me for a loop, but you know what, these things happen,” said Shell. “(Grove’s) a great guy and a great player. He’ll be back. The team will have to rally around each other and trust each other.

“We were very healthy up until I got the news on Jake. That really shook me. We’ll move on until he gets back.”

Hulsey expressed surprise at getting the start.

“The center’s expected to direct the line,” said Hulsey. “I’m going to go with it.”

Liking their Napa digs

In a time when 46 percent of the league’s teams have chosen to stay and train at the permanent headquarters, the Raiders move their operation to Napa for the summer. They have 21⁄2 practice fields, a fieldhouse and stay at the Napa Valley Marriott, just a short walk from Redwood Middle School.

“We still subscribe to the old school of theory that it’s best to take your whole football operation and take it away for four or five weeks, put everybody together in a living environment, and this is the perfect environment,” said senior executive John Herrera.

How good is the set up?

“All I know is that everybody that comes here, everybody that experiences this camp, whether it’s a player, a coach that’s come from somewhere else, a visitor that’s been around the league a bit and been in other camps, there’s not one person that hasn’t said this is the best training camp facility in not only pro football, but in all sports,” Herrera said.

“This facility as it exists, is just the way we put in on the drawing board when we were out looking for a training camp. Our organization loves Napa and loves this facility. We’ve had 11 great years here. We’ve had very few issues to deal with. We just look forward to keep coming back.”

Raider Nation gala set Sunday
The Raider Nation Celebration, featuring current Raiders players and coaches, and Raider legends, is set for Sunday at McAfee Coliseum in Oakland. It will also include the Raiderettes, the organization’s cheerleading squad.

The event is scheduled from noon to 4 p.m. Features of the day include interactive Kids Zones, select autograph and photo opportunities with the Raiderettes and Raiders legends, a “Hall of Fame” area featuring the Super Bowl trophies and a stroll down Raider memory lane, and live interviews with legends and current players.

On-field activities include Raiderette performances and legends introductions. The event culminates with head coach Art Shell introducing the coaching staff and the 2006 Oakland Raiders and an on-field skills demonstration.

Admission is free for suite and season ticket holders and $5 for non-season ticket holders.

Raiders Notes

The Raiders need to get their roster down to 75 players by Aug. 29 and then to the maximum 53 players on Sept. 2. ... Workers Wednesday moved equipment and gear into four moving vans for the trip back to Alameda. ... The team attended a function at Andretti Winery in Napa last week.
 
WHO'S HE?: Lots of people wondered why free-agent rookie quarterback Kent Smith got so much playing time in camp, then never got into a game. He throws a nice ball, has a nice pocket presence and ... maybe we'd just better shut up about him.

This was interesting. There hasn't been much on him in the training camp news...wonder how much playing time he will have in our final preseason game.
 
Angry Pope said:
This was interesting. There hasn't been much on him in the training camp news...wonder how much playing time he will have in our final preseason game.
From all indications, NONE. He's practice squad material, and probably a fall-back position for next season if there isn't a rookie we like better and Tui leaves.
 
Rupert said:
From all indications, NONE. He's practice squad material, and probably a fall-back position for next season if there isn't a rookie we like better and Tui leaves.

Yeah, I know he is practice squad material but considering that we will use our starters very little, he may come in the fourth quarter of that game. I believe Tee Martin and Bret Engeman did that.
 
True, but I don't think we liked either Tee or Bret as much as we supposedly like Kent.
 
That is kind of what I am getting at...if we don't see him then he has probably looked good in camp and we not expose him.
 
Big difference already for Raiders in preseason

JOSH DUBOW

OAKLAND, Calif. - Kirk Morrison can already see a big difference this season on the Oakland Raiders based on how they've played in the preseason.

For some teams, the exhibition season may be more about teaching, evaluating new players and staying healthy. But after three straight losing seasons, winning games is more crucial than usual for the Raiders this season.

"Winning is definitely important because it helps with the attitude. Guys get that itch and always want to feel like winning," said Morrison, Oakland's starting middle linebacker. "We don't want to feel losing. We did enough of that last year. It's a lot different this year. Last year in the preseason we were 0-3 before winning our last game. That kind of set the tempo early for our season. This year we have the attitude that we want to win."

The Raiders enter Friday night's exhibition against the Detroit Lions having won their first three preseason games for the first time since coach Art Shell was a starting tackle on the 1976 team that ended up winning Oakland's first Super Bowl.

The Raiders beat Philadelphia and Minnesota in the first two preseason games despite struggling offensively. With improved play from the offensive line and efficient passing from Aaron Brooks and Andrew Walter, the Raiders put together a more complete effort in a 23-7 victory over the San Francisco 49ers last Sunday and hope to build off that performance when they face the Lions.

The Raiders have won just 13 games the last three seasons, the worst stretch since Al Davis came aboard in 1963 to coach and eventually own the team.

"Winning is a part of what we do. It's a part of what we need to do," Shell said. "It creates good habits. Even though we won the three games, the players understand there's a lot to be done. There are a lot of mistakes we have to take care of before the regular season."

The Lions are also trying to create a new culture with a new coach. They beat Denver 20-13 in their first preseason game under Rod Marinelli before losing 20-16 last week to Cleveland.

Quarterback Jon Kitna played the entire first half for Detroit against Cleveland, going 7-for-12 for 94 yards and one TD. Kitna's passing was one of the few bright spots as the Lions first-team offense managed just 3 yards rushing on nine attempts against Cleveland's defensive starters.

"It's not a step backwards if you evaluate and move forward with it," Marinelli said. "If we don't go back and correct some of the mistakes that were made, then it is a step backwards. We hopefully identified some things, some of the fundamental work. We had a great week of fundamentals and hopefully those things are cleaned up and then you move on and put it to use this week."

This preseason games takes on added importance for fringe players on the borderline of making the squad. Teams have to cut their rosters to 75 players by Tuesday, meaning this will be the last chance for some players to state their case for sticking around.

John Madsen, an undrafted free agent out of Utah, has impressed the Raiders coaches in camp as he makes the transition from wide receiver to tight end. He has three catches for 58 yards, including two receptions last week.

But with his ability as a blocker still a work in progress, Madsen is hoping for another good

"It creeps into my mind. It's hard to get out," Madsen said. "I just try to not think about the numbers and what they're going to do and try to control what I can control."

It's also the last time many of the starters will get extensive playing time before the beginning of the season. Many teams choose to rest their key starters in the final exhibition game to avoid injuries.

"This game might be a little more important because the starters get more playing time," Lions defensive end James Hall said. "But other than that, it doesn't mean any more or any less than any other time we're out on the field before the season starts for real.

"It's just an exhibition game."
 
Might as well put this here...Lincoln Kennedy is getting a tryout with Gruden.
 
Figures. Why can't he just stay retired?

He looks terribily out of shape and as I remember it he was in worse shape when he retired.
 
Raiders smiling for good reason

By Bill Soliday


OAKLAND — The Raider Nation has been waiting for the worm to turn — for bad fortune to turn to good. For three years, their patience has been sorely tested.

Given the scope of recent events, perhaps their time has come.

Yes, the Raiders are 3-0 heading into tonight's 7 o'clock game at McAfee Coliseum against the Detroit Lions. Wins are wins, even if they come in August and are powered by a lot of who-he's who are about to become past-tense contributors.

But there is evidence beyond the scoreboard the Raiders' luck to change after a couple of close calls this week.

- Center Jake Grove, who at one point appeared headed in the direction of shoulder surgery that would sideline him for at least three months, got results of a second MRI Thursday.

Diagnosis: strained muscle in the shoulder. The outcome: surgery will not be necessary.

"It's not as bad as they thought it would be," Grove said. "Now it's looking like three to four weeks, so it's good news. It looks like I dodged a bullet this time."

- Coach Art Shell dodged one, too, when he was involved in a hit-and-run auto accident Sunday night after the Raiders' 23-7 win over the 49ers.

Shell's Cadillac Escalade was broadsided by a woman driving a white Jeep Cherokee at thecorner of 73rd Avenue and Hillside Streets in Oakland. Shell was stopped in traffic when the Cherokee ran a stop sign and rammed into his car before speeding away.

The good news: she rammed into the passenger side, thus Shell was unhurt. Police and Crime Stoppers of Oakland are offering up to $1,000 in reward money for information leading to the apprehension of the Jeep driver (call police at (510) 238-3156 or Crime Stoppers at (510) 238-6946).

Back on the gridiron, the Raiders have a chance of running their exhibition record to 4-0 for only the second time in their 47-year history.

Back in 1975 when NFL teams played six preseason games, the Raiders won their first five games before losing the exhibition finale to the Los Angeles Rams. The team has never gone unbeaten in preseason.

The Lions come in with a 1-1 record. They also come in quite late.

Because the Lions scheduled their annual kickoff luncheon for Thursday, the decision was made to fly to San Francisco today, on game day. They will check into a hotel near San Francisco Airport, then bus to Oakland for the game.

Normally, NFL rules require teams to arrive the day prior to a game to avoid possible conflicts involving travel or travel in inclement weather. However, in this instance, the Lions were granted a waiver.

Arriving on game day is not something coaches generally like, and new Lions head coach Rod Marinelli is no exception.

"The only thing I would say — and I'm going to try and answer your question politely — it's a team issue. It's team business. That's the only thing I am going to say on it. That's our schedule on Friday, and we're going to take off, and we're going to go."

And then they will go back after the game, arriving in Detroit about the time the roosters are crowing.

The Raiders, who seemed to hit their stride offensively Sunday night, will be up against a team that beat Denver 20-13, scoring the last 10 points and despite being outgained 350-246.

Last week, they lost to Cleveland despite the fact the Browns had four turnovers.

During the off-season, Lions general manager Matt Millen, a Raiders legend in his own right, brought in former Bengal Jon Kitna as quarterback, then lured Arizona free-agent quarterback Josh McCown to Detroit in the off-season. He's a quarterback the Raiders had a brief flirtation with before signing ex-Saint Aaron Brooks.

Kitna is the starter, but through two games, there hasn't been a lot to choose from between the two — Kitna is 9-for-17 for 115 yards, McCown 12-for-22 for 136 yards. Neither has an interception, while Kitna has the lone touchdown pass. However, the more mobile McCown has rushed nine times for 67 yards.

"We're going to play a little bit longer with the starters," Marinelli said. "We're trying to get that snap, that winning snap. This is our first full week of game planning. It's full preparation from a game standpoint."



EXTRA POINTS: Raiders starters will probably play at least a half, possibly longer. ... Shell did not report any lineup changes other than Corey Hulsey starting at center for Grove with Adam Treu and rookie Chris Morris following. ... (Corrections) The Raider Nation Celebration Sunday begins at noon, not at 4 p.m. ... The Raiders must cut 15 players to reach the roster limit of 75 by Tuesday, not by Sunday as previously reported. This year there are no European exemptions at the first cutdown date as in the past.
 
More on Lincoln...

Gruden Gives Tackle A Chance in Workout

By Mike Cobb

TAMPA -- Veteran offensive tackle Lincoln Kennedy, who retired after the 2003 season, worked out for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at the team's new facility Thursday.

The 35-year-old Kennedy, who played eight seasons with the Oakland Raiders including four when current Bucs coach Jon Gruden was the Raiders coach, called and asked for the workout.

"He's a friend of mine," Gruden said. "He called and wanted us to work him out, so I take care of friends. It's a nice thing to do.

"It kind of came as a surprise to me, honestly," Gruden said. "but we take everything seriously when players call, especially players who have played really good in the league."

That doesn't mean the Bucs are ready to sign him.

"I'll watch the (workout) tape later, but I'm not going to raise a lot of speculation at this time," Gruden said.

Kennedy, a three-time Pro Bowl selection, played three seasons with Atlanta before going to Oakland in 1996. He has played in 169 games with 141 starts.
 
Kennedy shows little in workout

By STEPHEN F. HOLDER and JOANNE KORTH
Published August 25, 2006


TAMPA - Coach Jon Gruden has a propensity for bringing back former players, but even Gruden seems unwilling to pull the trigger on Lincoln Kennedy.

The former Pro Bowl offen-sive tackle, whose last NFL action came in 2003, worked out Thursday at the Bucs' training facility - his latest effort to make a comeback.

But much like his previous efforts in recent weeks, this attempt was met with a yawn. Kennedy, 6 feet 6, weighed 385 pounds and was out of shape, and the whole thing amounted to little more than a favor for an old friend.

"He called and wanted us to work him out, so that's what we're doing," Gruden said. "I take care of friends. It's a nice thing to do."

Kennedy, 35, worked last season as an analyst for the NFL Network and hasn't been on a roster since the 2004 preseason. But during his playing days he was a formidable tackle, making the Pro Bowl in 2001 and 2002 with Oakland.

His tenure there coincided with Gruden, who coached the Raiders from 1998 to 2001.

"It kind of came as a surprise to me, honestly, but we take everything seriously when players call, especially players who call and have played really good in the league," Gruden said.

But the coach was quick to establish the fact that the Bucs were simply taking a peek.

"I'm not going to raise speculation other than we're looking into his situation," Gruden said.

Kennedy talked his way into invites from the Cowboys and Redskins this month, but those visits never got any further than the physical. He failed both and actual workouts never commenced.

Thursday's workout was observed by general manager Bruce Allen, offensive line coach Bill Muir and personnel executive Doug Williams, among others. Gruden did not take part but planned to watch tape of the session. In most cases, when the team has a genuine interest in a player, Gruden makes it a point to observe the workout.

Kennedy likely won't be the last tackle to visit. The team is thin at the position with backup Torrin Tucker still out with a knee injury and former third-round pick Chris Colmer out of football for the foreseeable future with a nerve condition.

"We worked out a couple of guys last week and everybody has our phone number and knows that we would be interested in looking into any tackle situation, given our present injury situation," Gruden said.
 
NFL 2006: Shell tries to bring Raiders' tradition back to Oakland



Thirteen years ago, during Art Shell's first tenure as head coach of the Raiders, Al Davis sat in the press box at Mile High Stadium in Denver and noticed that Anthony Smith, the team's best pass rusher, was out of the game.

Davis turned to an assistant and said, "Get down to the field and tell Art to get Smith back in the game." The man complied and Smith was back on the field shortly.
Ask anyone in the NFL what's been wrong with the Raiders and they're likely to reply "Al Davis," the man who has been the face of the team for 43 years, first as coach, then as owner. Davis still thinks he's the coach and, as he did that night in Denver, doesn't hesitate to make coaching decisions.

But for four decades, Davis is also what's been right with the Raiders. Not only has he been coach, general manager and owner rolled into one, but he also served as AFL commissioner, helped force the merger with the NFL and is in the Hall of Fame for his myriad contributions to football. If he is deemed what's wrong now, he is also why for the first 30 or so of the last 43 seasons Oakland/Los Angeles/Oakland had the best record of any NFL franchise.

But things have gone very wrong lately - a 13-35 record since a Super Bowl trip following a 2002 season that in retrospect seems like a fluke. When he rehired Shell in February, Davis, who turned 77 on July 4, made a rare acknowledgment that he might have erred when he fired him after the 1994 season.

"I have never forgiven myself and I have talked about it from time to time that I might have made a mistake," he said.

The record says bringing back Shell was a wise move - from 1989-94, he was 56-41. "Non-Raider" coaches since then were 95-106.

In fact, Jon Gruden (40-28) is the only Raiders coach with a winning record during that period. And he left for Tampa Bay after the 2001 season in large part because he and Davis couldn't coexist.

Davis remains deeply involved in coaching - he still watches tape of every practice.

Last season, with the Raiders going nowhere, then-coach Norv Turner made Marques Tuiasosopo the starting quarterback as an experiment. Tuiasosopo played poorly but Turner said he would give him another shot - until he talked to Davis.

Shell's return puts the team back in the hands of "a Raider" or, in Davis' accent, which mixes his native Brooklyn with the South, "a Raid-uh." One sign: Shell is running the old Raiders "vertical offense" and some of the same drills John Madden ran in the 1970s.

Don't discount the heritage.

A Raider - from Fred Biletnikoff and Jim Otto, to Madden, Willie Brown and Ken Stabler, to Matt Millen and Howie Long - is a lifetime label for someone who starred in Oakland - or in Los Angeles from 1982-94. It sticks forever, except for those, such as Marcus Allen, who get into Davis' doghouse and are banished.

Gene Upshaw, a Hall of Fame guard for the Raiders for 16 seasons, is now the executive director of the NFL Players Association and has all 32 teams within his purview. But he still considers himself a Raider at heart. "It never goes away," he says. "It can't."

The loyalty is returned by Davis and his front office.

But it can work in negative ways.

"Non-Raider" coaches - Gruden is exhibit A - have bristled at the atmosphere that requires employees to bleed silver and black and, from time to time, take coaching advice from Davis. Mike Shanahan, who became head coach in 1988, tried in his first season to fire a group of career Raiders on the coaching staff, including Shell, who was the offensive line coach.

Davis stepped in and overruled him. And four games into the 1989 season, Shanahan was gone after an 8-12 record, replaced by Shell, who became the first black coach in modern NFL history. (Davis is a social trailblazer - Amy Trask, the team's current CEO, is the only woman ever to run an NFL franchise.)

So while the Raiders still call themselves "the team of the decades," the relevant years are really from 1963-87, when they were 267-121 and won three Super Bowls, often with offbeat characters such as Ken Stabler or castoffs deemed troublemakers by other teams.

The coaches during that era were all Raiders - Davis (from 1963-65), John Rauch, Madden and Tom Flores. Then came Shananan, a non-Raider, then Shell. Since then? All non-Raiders.

Shell has emphasized that Raider image. An assistant in Kansas City and Atlanta, he eventually left a prestigious job as the NFL's vice president of football operations to take what many think of as a thankless rebuilding job on a team in chaos.

"It's coming home to finish what I started," he said when he took the job. "It's like going out to the wilderness, you travel around, you learn, you gather experience, new ideas, you evolve as a person and as a coach, and I think I've done that."

Why would Shell leave a prestigious and secure job?

The Raider connection is obviously one reason.

Another is that he has publicly stated his desire to become a head coach again despite almost no nibbles, even after he played a major role in Atlanta's Super Bowl trip after the 1999 season. In fact, the surprising lack of interest in Shell has been cited as an example of the unwillingness of some teams to consider minorities for head coaching openings - he became the seventh active black coach, an all-time high, when he took the Raiders job.

There's a common belief that any Oakland coach is taking orders from Davis.

That perception contributed to keeping Madden out of the Hall of Fame for more than 30 years despite the best regular-season winning percentage in NFL history - he was finally elected last February. Flores, who coached two Super Bowl winners, has never gotten a nibble for the Hall and the Davis factor may have hurt Shell in his quest for another job.

Another perception: The Raiders will go nowhere this year.

That's probably true.

But at least they are Raiders, built in part on the old Al Davis pattern - key players are castoffs.

Their quarterback will be Aaron Brooks, who had a couple of very good seasons with New Orleans. But he was very inconsistent last season, fell out of favor and joined the Raiders as a free agent. At 30, he should be in his prime and is certainly more mobile than the departed Kerry Collins.

Then there is Randy Moss, acquired last season in a trade with the Vikings, who finally tired of his antics. In other words, the perfect Raider.

Bothered by injuries last season, Moss had just 60 catches, but led the team with 1,005 yards and eight touchdown receptions. But at 29, he is still THE most talented receiver in the game (sorry T.O.) and he seems to have matured a bit off the field.

Yes, there are a lot of holes, especially on defense.

But at least a Raider is in charge.

Looking at history, that can't hurt.
 
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